The 3A West region semifinal between No. 3 Statesville and No. 5 Charlotte Harding is a match of contradicting styles and attributes.
“It’s going to be survival of the fittest, and we already know it,” head coach Sonny Schofield said. “It’s going to be their size against our speed, and that’s what we expect.”
The teams and their styles test each other at the Greensboro Coliseum’s Special Events Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. The winner advances to Saturday’s state semifinal game at the same site.
Like it did Friday at No. 2 Northeast Guilford, Statesville (23-3) will once again have to contend with a large frontline. It’s led by Steven Burrough, a 6-foot-9 senior center who averages 5.5 blocked shots per game.
“That means we can’t be catching and shooting the way we’re used to doing when we catch it inside,” Schofield said. “We’re going to have to pump fake sometimes or he’s going to be throwing it in the stands.”
The Greyhounds also have to contend with Rams point guard Aaron Linton. Linton led Harding to the region tournament when he put up 18 points, dished seven assists, had six steals and snatched five rebounds in a 71-65 victory at No. 1 Concord.
It’s a win Schofield does not consider an upset.
“They’re in that combo league with Olympic and West Mecklenburg, so they’ve been playing some stiff competition throughout (the season),” he said.
Harding lost to nationally-ranked Olympic by only one point Jan. 11, and it fell again a month later by nine points to the same team.
The Greyhounds go into the region semifinal winning 13 games in a row by an average of 26.7 points per game. Their playoff wins over No. 14 Northwest Cabarrus, No. 6 North Forsyth and No. 2 Northeast Guilford were by 39 points, 30 points and 17 points, respectively.
The key to Statesville’s run of victories is its ability to jump on an opponent early, apply pressure and force turnovers, then utilize its speedy players to force the opposing team into a running match. It’s a trend that needs to continue Wednesday in Greensboro.
“We have to play with intensity at the beginning like we always do and bring it to them and kill them in the first quarter,” Jaquan Warren said.
Leading the early charge in the playoffs has been Breon Borders and Warren. Borders scored 17 points in the first half against Northwest Cabarrus, and he scored 19 first-half points Friday at Northeast Guilford. Warren poured in 16 first-half points against North Forsyth.
Borders said getting a lead early is important because it’s harder to “play from behind.” He added if the Greyhounds gain the advantage, they will play better and make it difficult for the Rams to catch up.
“We have to give it our all,” Warren said. “Loser goes home, and there is no coming back.”